The German government yesterday said that it was banning all activities of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement in Germany, calling it a “Shiite terrorist organization.”
German Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer “has today banned the operation” of the group in Germany, his spokesman wrote on the ministry’s Twitter account.
Raids were taking place in several places across the country, the spokesman wrote.
Dozens of police and special forces stormed mosques and community centers linked to Hezbollah in Bremen, Berlin, Dortmund, Muenster and Recklinghausen in the early hours of the morning, German media reported.
“Even in times of crisis, the rule of law is upheld,” the spokesman tweeted.
Although Hezbollah has no official presence in Germany, security forces say that its members use the country as a safe haven and to raise funds, including through criminal activities.
Like the EU, Germany had until now only outlawed Hezbollah’s military wing, while tolerating its political wing.
Israel yesterday applauded Germany’s decision, calling it a “a significant step in the global fight against terrorism.”
Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz hailed the move as a “very important decision.”
“I call on other European countries as well as the European Union to do the same,” Katz said in a statement.
The US and Israel have long designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group and urged allies to follow suit.
Britain outlawed Hezbollah’s political wing last year, making membership of the Shiite movement or inviting support for it a crime.
The British decision followed outrage over the display of the Hezbollah flag, which features a Kalashnikov assault rifle, at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London.
The mood began shifting in Germany, too, with the Bundestag in December last year passing a resolution to ban the group from operating in Germany altogether.
Among other things, today’s ban means that the group’s supporters would no longer be allowed to wave Hezbollah flags at marches in Germany.
Hezbollah, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the nation’s civil war, is seen by Israel as an Iranian proxy, seeking to extend the Islamic republic’s military reach to the Jewish state’s northern border.
Israeli warplanes have carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria over the past few years against what Israel says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets.
Hezbollah was established in 1982 during the civil war in Lebanon.
It is now a major political party in the country, where it holds a majority in parliament along with its allies.
Israel and Hezbollah also fought a war in 2006.
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